In the last few years a series of demonstration projects have taken place that have demonstrated the potential of a transport energy system based on hydrogen. These have seen the development and demonstration of:
- Different hydrogen infrastructures ;
- Fuel cell powered buses and cars; and
- Buses and cars powered by hydrogen internal combustion engines.
As a result, there are some 100 FC and ICE cars, a few FC delivery vans, and between 40 and 45 fuel cell and ICE buses in operation around the world. Most of the buses are in regular public transport and airport trolley service.
The bus projects in particular have provided the developers and the operators with excellent data and experience because the vehicles are generally operated by professional drivers and often under especially hard conditions, such as uninterrupted operation for more than 12 hours under some very harsh, extremes of climatic conditions.
The HyFLEET:CUTE project will see the operation of the world's largest fleet of hydrogen powered buses. It builds on the learning and developments from many of these previous projects.
The HyFLEET:CUTE bus fleet will be supported by a hydrogen infrastructure which will produce, refine, distribute and dispense hydrogen in many different ways.
New advanced prototypes of hydrogen Fuel Cell and Internal Combustion Engine buses will also be developed and trialled.
An advanced hydrogen infrastructure is being established in Berlin which is capable of refuelling a fleet of up to 20 buses. This is aimed to achieve reliability and availability performance as good as current CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) infrastructure, and to be highly energy efficient.
A very active and extensive dissemination and information programme – the Global Hydrogen Bus Platform – combined with the inclusion of Beijing, China, aims to extend the impact of this technology world-wide.
The HyFLEET:CUTE project objectives were to:
- Develop hydrogen powered bus technology in order to reduce the consumption of fuel and energy in the whole transportation system.
- Develop efficient and environmentally 'friendly' ways to produce hydrogen.
- Research the technology and development needs to establish a hydrogen refueling infrastructure.
- Inform the community and key decision-makers about the potential advantages of a hydrogen-based transport system and how they can help to develop it.
The following tasks were undertaken throughout the project:
- operation of 33 hydrogen fuel cell (FC) powered buses in 9 cities around the world, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Beijing, Hamburg, London, Luxembourg, Madrid, Perth, Reykjavik;
- operation of 14 hydrogen powered internal combustion engine (ICE) buses in Berlin;
- design, construction and testing of the next generation of fuel cell and internal combustion engine buses;
- development and testing of a new hydrogen refueling infrastructure including an integrated refuelling station with gaseous hydrogen produced from Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and bio DME (Di Methyl Ether produced from biomass) and stationary fuel cells powering the site;
- development, optimization and testing of existing hydrogen infrastructure;
- analysing and predicting public opinion on the risks and advantages of hydrogen and hydrogen powered transport systems.
A range of evaluation studies were carried out. Many of them were based on the assessment framework developed in the former CUTE project. The use of a single coherent assessment framework that integrated all activities of the whole project group would be an important achievement. This arrangement allowed the performance of a wide range of different technologies in the hydrogen infrastructure and the vehicles to be compared. Comprehensive Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) of hydrogen vehicles and infrastructure under 'real life' operational conditions were carried out. This included research into energy efficiencies and environmental impact (Well-to-Tank and Tank-to-Wheel studies) of different hydrogen production pathways and vehicle technology options. The scale and design of the HyFLEET:CUTE project allowed a comprehensive LCA of all advanced hydrogen based public transport technologies currently on the market. Comparisons of the hydrogen ICE and FC buses were conducted in regular route operation. They also were compared with a wide range of other bus technologies. For example they were compared with the LH2 (Liquid hydrogen) hybrid bus running in Berlin. Because the assessment was expected to be carried out under 'real life' operational conditions, it would not suffer from the disadvantage of extrapolating results from test-benches using model drive cycles. This was particularly important as public transport vehicles in inner-city transport were regularly operated in a part-load mode which is very different from most model drive cycles. The evaluation studi
Brief summary of the results:
- Operation of 33 hydrogen fuel cell (FC) powered buses in 9 cities around the world - Amsterdam, Barcelona, Beijing, Hamburg, London, Luxembourg, Madrid, Perth, Reykjavik;
- Operation of 14 hydrogen powered internal combustion engine (ICE) buses in Berlin;
- Design, construction and testing of the next generation of fuel cell and internal combustion engine buses;
- Development and testing of a new hydrogen refueling infrastructure including an integrated refuelling station with gaseous hydrogen produced from Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and bio DME (Di Methyl Ether produced from biomass) and stationary fuel cells powering the site;
- Development, optimization and testing of existing hydrogen infrastructure;
- Analysing and predicting public opinion on the risks and advantages of hydrogen and hydrogen powered transport systems.
By any measure, the HyFLEET:CUTE Project has been an outstanding success. The more than 2V million kilometres travelled, the 170 947 hours of bus operation and the 555 tonnes of hydrogen dispensed are clear testament in themselves.
It is equally clear that the future of energy for transport is, at best, uncertain and that it may well involve disruptive changes within our communities.
Added to this, there is strong evidence of wide-spread and strong public support for governments to implement, or to require the implementation, of clean public transport.
In this context, the fact that the hydrogen public transport vehicle and refuelling technology works reliably and safely and can be commercialised holds significant promise.
There are a number of challenges that had to be overcome:
- The bus technology must be able to be operated with minimal special support in a standard public transport bus fleet;
- The purchase price of the buses must be significantly reduced to coincide with commercialisation;
- Procurement decisions should not be based only on first cost, but rather on lifetime operational costs; including external costs associated with carbon fuels and pollutants;
- Hydrogen must be able to be produced cheaply and through renewable means;
- Hydrogen infrastructure, especially the electrolyser and steam reformer units which are the key components of on-site H2 production and also the hydrogen compressors and dispensing equipment, must be able to operate as reliably as the buses.
The future for successful and imminent commercialisation of hydrogen powered public transport lies undoubtedly in more vigorous and broadly-based 'buy-in' from industry and the political stakeholders; in both recognising the coming disruption, and planning for it. The general public has already demonstrated strong buy-in; well in advance of these other stakeholders, and is expecting industry and government leaders to catch up sooner rather than later.
Hydrogen transport projects need to move quickly from development and demonstration to large scale projects involving large fleets of buses. These fleets must be fuelled with hydrogen which is generated through renewable means, and where the buses are fully integrated into normal commercial public transport bus operations. At this point we will finally have achieved a truly sustainable transport initiative.